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Bob Dylan and America’s 70-Year Nuclear Nightmare

In an interview with Rolling Stone, singer Bob Dylan said, “[The U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima] showed that indiscriminate killing and indiscriminate homicide on a mass level was possible, whereas if you look at warfare up until that point, you had to see somebody to shoot them or maim them, you had to look at them. You don’t have to do that anymore.”

I thought Bob Dylan’s statement was profound. In America, we’ve always had war and all kinds of related evils, but with Hiroshima we crossed the line with this new demonic power and an insane preparation that allows us to destroy the entire planet. It is like we said to God, “What it took you 15 billion years to make, we can destroy in 15 minutes.”

America has never dealt with the consequences of our actions. We, as a people, have never talked deeply about how we vaporized more than 100,000 human beings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It seems we are numb or maybe we are mindless with collective insanity as we have continuously allowed our government to go on creating even more nuclear weapons to vaporize more people.

The 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki invites us to reflect anew on our global predicament and what we can do to create a new disarmed world of peace. Most people on the planet have never lived without the threat of nuclear weapons. We’re all used to them now. They’re part of life, part of the landscape, part of our reality. There’s nothing we can do about it, we’re told.

By 1968 America had over 32,000 nuclear weapons. Today we have some 7,200 nuclear weapons on alert, ready to end civilization at a moment’s notice.

Since Hiroshima, America has spent over $5.5 trillion building nuclear weapons. Two years ago, the U.S. Congress quietly approved a bill to spend another $1 trillion over the next 30 years to upgrade our nuclear arsenal. With that vote, America is now building state of the art nuclear uranium plants in Kansas City and Oak Ridge, upgrading Trident subs and Livermore Labs, and at Los Alamos, the birthplace of the bomb, and they are building a state of the art plutonium bomb factory.

Everything today finds its roots in Hiroshima, which means the whole world of suffering and violence is connected to Los Alamos – from Auschwitz to Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan to Haiti to ISIS to Al Qaeda to Ferguson, to Sandy Hook and to Charleston, South Carolina. It’s all connected.

Remember what Mahatma Gandhi said shortly after the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima: “We have seen the physical effects of the atomic bomb on the Japanese people, but it is too early to see the spiritual effects on the people who made and used the bomb, the Americans.”

That’s what we are living through today – the dire spiritual consequences of what we did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki; as well as the effects of building thousands of nuclear weapons since then, and threatening time and again to use them on our “enemies.”

Here in New Mexico where I live, Los Alamos is a given. We’re told that it provides jobs, that it protects the nation, and that it is a source of national pride. I am not fooled. I know the sole purpose of Los Alamos is to continue to prepare the weapons that can kill millions of men, women and children without Americans ever having to look at them.

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John Dear is an American Catholic priest nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He has been arrested more than 75 times in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience against war, injustice, and nuclear weapons.

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